On our most recent weekend trip to Torino, Alessandro and I chose to dine at Ristorante Monferrato, known for its traditional Piedmontese cuisine. The old-school, moderately upscale eatery provided us with a delicious multi-course lunch that was a great intermission in between a long day of sightseeing.
One of my favorite reds, barolo, is native to the region of Piedmont. That being said, I had to try a glass. I am by no means a wine connoisseur, but this was honestly one of the best glasses of wine I’ve ever had in my life (an opinion based on my own personal tastes). Regretfully, I did not take the time to document the exact variety of grape that was used in this one, so I can’t provide any further information other than it was THE BOMB.
This one in particular was slightly bitter and acidic, also delicate, with notes of chocolate, tobacco, truffle, and plum. Just delightful!
I Primi Piatti
For a first course, we shared gnocchi and agnolotti. Gnocchi are a potato-based, short pasta. This version was served with toma cheese fondue (a cheese typical of Piedmont) and shavings of white truffle. While tasty and rich, the truffles were not very potent and didn’t do much to enhance the dish. I would’ve preferred more fragrant truffles to take this pasta to the next level.
A type of pasta similar to ravioli, agnolotti were also born in Piedmont. These ones were filled with meat and herbs. I have no idea what kind of sauce they were in, but it was wonderful. The agnolotti far surpassed the gnocchi for me. They had much more flavor and were definitely made in house.
I Secondo Piatti
Torino (and Piedmont in general) is a meat-lovers paradise. While I definitely prefer seafood over meat I wanted to “do as the Torinese do” for the time that I was there. I ordered a traditional meal of finanziaria. This very particular dish is essentially a stew of “leftover” parts from various animals (think brains, testicles, bone marrow, cock’s crests, wattles, and hearts). It’s served in a gravy-like sauce with herbs and trimmings. This version even had pickles in it (an Italian interpretation of pickles that is)! While the meat was tender and tasty, the sauce got to be a bit sickening after a while. It had a sweetness to it, as well as a taste of vinegar, that was overpowering on the palate when consumed in a large quantity.
All I’m going to say about this dish is don’t knock it before you try it. We as Americans are not accustomed to eating “fifth quarter” meat products due to an irrational belief that they are of lesser quality than other parts of the animal. This mindset is just simply untrue. These “leftover” parts are equally, if not more, delicious than “standard” meat products when prepared correctly. Not to mention, it’s horribly wasteful just to discard otherwise edible parts of an animal because they’re perceived as “gross.”
Alessandro’s main dish was stewed lamb kidneys. Kidney is comparable to liver in both taste and texture (I am a huge fan of liver, by the way). This dish was memorable because the kidneys were of lamb, rather than chicken, giving them a more complex taste. Served in their own juices (and possibly wine…?) and finished with fresh parsley, the meat in this dish was tender and flavorful. I had a few bites and very much enjoyed it, perhaps more than my own main dish.
After two heavy pasta dishes and boatloads of stewed meat, we still weren’t finished. While the rolling dessert cart that the waitstaff presented to every table upon finishing their meal was certainly tempting, we decided that nothing on the dessert menu was so special that we couldn’t find it elsewhere. The cheese on the other hand…
Piedmont produces several types of cheese ranging from tangy, salty, creamy, to downright stinky. While I often consider it, I rarely order cheese plates as a dessert. But being in a region with so many exceptional offerings to try, I figured there was no better time than the present to do so. Unfortunately, I don’t know what the varieties shown below were precisely. However, all were excellent. The accompanying marmalades were fantastic too: a berry jam, spicy red pepper jam, and herbed honey.
- Traditional, house-made Piedmontese cuisine
- Meat-focused menu, not ideal for vegetarians (or picky eaters in general)
- Slightly on the pricey side for what is offered